Trinity Toppers

The Top Trails in Northern California's Trinity Alps
Canyon Creek Lakes
High country Canyon Creek Lakes seem to hover at the brink. (Trinity Alps Adventures)

Pretend for a moment that you are driving north on Interstate 5 south of Redding, California, on a glorious spring day when a north wind has cleared the air in the upper Sacramento Valley so you can see for a hundred miles. As you top a ridge, you and your passengers are enthralled by the frosted beacon of Mount Shasta towering into the sky directly north. Over to the northwest you see an intriguing row of snow-capped peaks beyond the lower ridges close to Redding. Most of your fellow riders are surprised to see snowy mountains over there toward the coast, but a few recognize the Trinity Alps, and regale the group with accounts of marvelous past experiences there. With the possible exception of fish stories, they are probably telling the truth.

The Trinity Alps is an area of approximately 525,000 acres of splendid wilderness and near-wilderness drained by the Trinity, Scott and Salmon rivers in northwest California. Half a million acres, more than 781 square miles, is in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, designated by Congress in the California Wilderness Act of 1984. This magnificent wilderness are includes all of the 234,000 acres previously protected in the Salmon-Trinity Alps Primitive Area plus, obviously, a great deal more.

By comparison with the Sierra Nevada or the Cascades, the Trinity Alps are a small range of mountains in both height and area. Bigger is not necessarily better, however. The Trinity Alps have rushing streams, high waterfalls, gorgeous mountain lakes dimpled with trout rises, glaciated granite peaks, remnant glaciers and cool, deep forests plus some unique features of their own.

What the Trinity Alps don't have, to the extent of other mountain ranges, is crowds of people. Only a few areas in the Alps tend to be crowded at any time.

The Trinity Alps yield their inner secrets and pleasures only to hikers, backpackers and equestrians. Automobile-bound visitors to Clair Engle Lake and Trinity River resorts see only a little more of the Alps than they would from Interstate 5 on that bright spring day. If we can persuade some occupants of automobiles and motor homes to try a little backcountry exploration, we will be very flattered and pleased.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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